Prime Coalition and Azolla Ventures have rolled out a $239 million fund to invest in early-stage startups that are unlikely to lure traditional investors for their climate technology solutions.
The new fund will look at three factors as part of its investment criteria — impact, lack of alternative funding options and commercial potential of the climate solution, according to a statement Thursday.
The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based nonprofit Prime Coalition and investing firm Azolla will look for startups with the potential to reduce or remove at least half a gigaton of CO2-equivalent emissions by 2050. While being overlooked by mainstream investors, these “solutions must have high potential for achieving commercial success,” the groups said in a statement.
The latest funding platform underscores the rush among sustainability-focused investors and policymakers to seek climate solutions in a rapidly warming planet that’s smashing temperatures records globally and triggering extreme weather events more frequently.
Prime Coalition will oversee impact and the startups’ ability to secure alternative funding while Azolla will assess the commercial potential of the investment candidates.
Azolla was founded by Prime, a nonprofit, and in part focuses on providing “catalytic capital,” referring to capital that can stay invested for longer, accept higher risk or lower returns. It’s able to do this because most of Prime Coalition’s funds come from organizations like the Grantham Environmental Trust and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Prime Coalition’s Founder and Executive Director Sarah Kearney said in an interview.
“It means that we can invest in diamonds in the rough at their earliest stage” and not be ruffled by investments where the exit pathway is unclear, said Amy Duffuor, Azolla’s co-founder and general partner.
An example of a climate solution that Azolla invested in is the Philadelphia-based Carbon Reform that deploys carbon capture systems in buildings for improving air quality and saving energy.
Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning solutions make “people really nervous,” Duffuor said, since it’s a legacy industry that is slow to change. “A lot of investors said, ‘Look, this sounds interesting, and it’s a cool idea, but come back to us when there’s more commercial or customer traction.’”
Azolla has also funded firms that work on decarbonizing shipping, optimizing forest microbiome to boost carbon storage or developing membranes for low-cost battery recycling, according to the statement.
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